This past weekend, The Washington Post ran an editorial by Kate Cohen entitled “On TV, Abortion is the Road Less Traveled. Life’s Not Like That.”
Cohen bemoans the fact that fictional television and movie characters rarely resolve unintended pregnancies by obtaining abortions. Specifically, she cites “Knocked Up,” “Waitress,” “Juno,” “Friends,” “Modern Family,” “Girls,” “Glee,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “The Mindy Project” as examples of television shows and movies where characters carry unintended pregnancies to term. Cohen confidently states that carrying a pregnancy to term is “the choice that most women in that situation don’t make.”
While Cohen is correct in that 61 percent of unintended pregnancies end in abortion worldwide, the figure in the United States, where the shows she mentions are most commonly viewed, is quite different.
The Guttmacher Institute periodically publishes data on how U.S. women resolve unintended pregnancies. In 1994, 54 percent of unintended pregnancies resulted in an abortion. However, by 2011, the most recent year for which data is publicly available, that figure fell to 42 percent. In short, when confronted with an unintended pregnancy, well over half of U.S. women make the life-affirming decision to carry that pregnancy to term.
Since 1980, the U.S. abortion rate has fallen by over 50 percent. An important reason for this long-term decline in the U.S. abortion rate is because a smaller percentage of unintended pregnancies result in an abortion. There are a variety of reasons for this including advancements in ultrasound technology, shifts in public attitudes toward abortion, an increase in the number of pregnancy help centers, and the impact of protective pro-life laws. A variety of pro-life efforts to build a culture of life have been successful.
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Popular culture often provides powerful insights into changes in societal norms and mores. The fact abortions occur less often in movies and television is noteworthy. It accurately reflects the fact that a higher percentage of women are choosing life for their unborn children.
LifeNews Note: Michael J. New is a Research Associate at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and is an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New